Changing Face of Early Literacy – Why Digital?

Brown Bear, Brown Bear“Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see? I see a red bird looking at me,” chanted all of the children in my classroom as they participated in a shared reading time in my classroom. Shared reading, in which all of the children regardless of their reading level read aloud from shared text, has long been considered to be an important part of a balanced early literacy program.

In the good old days, not so long ago, all of the shared reading in my classroom was from books (including ‘big’ books whenever possible) and from poems and chants that I had purchased or carefully printed on chart paper so that the entire class could see.  While I still use these resources when appropriate, much of our shared reading is now digital. We read a variety of digital texts, but most frequently we read tweets written by classes or others we follow on our class Twitter account or we read comments written on our classroom blog or on the blogs of one of the students. We also read blog posts written by classes or students far away.

What Does This Look Like in the Classroom?

Shared Reading of Twitter

During our shared reading, I project either our class Twitter account or our blog comments onto a board and together, we read these tweets or comments aloud.  At the beginning of the school year my students are still pre-readers, so I point to the words as we read, but I turn this job over to my students as soon as it is possible. After reading each tweet, we talk about what we just read. What did we find out? How is that similar to or different from what we have done/studied/know? Do we want to reply to this tweet or comment? What do we want to say?  Since my students are slow typists, at the beginning of the year, this task usually falls to me as they tell me what to say, how to spell words (we stretch out the sounds together) and remind me that we should always re-read a tweet before we press “Tweet”. At this point, the shared reading has turned into a shared writing lesson.

When we read a comment together, we follow a similar pattern. Is this a good comment, something we want posted on our blog? If yes, we click “Approve” and then discuss whether the comment needs to have a response.  If it does, we follow a similar procedure to the one just mentioned.

Why Read Digital?

Why have I made the switch from only traditional text to including digital in my classroom?

1. Much of the reading the students will do outside of my classroom and as they grow up will be digital.  It seems appropriate to begin to acknowledge this right from the start of their reading education.

2.  High interest Students are excited to read text that has been written by other children and classrooms. They like to “get to know” other classrooms by reading what they are up to on Twitter or reading a comment by someone they have never met. They wonder aloud about these people and if appropriate, we respond. We often get responses in return. Never in all of my teaching have I had that kind of authentic engagement with any of my chart paper poems.

3. Personalization Much of the digital text we read is written directly to my class or to one of the students in my class. It is hard to argue against the efficacy of personalization in any kind in learning.

4. The students are able to respond to the text. As I mentioned above, the digital text we read allows for an immediate means to respond. While written response to traditional text is certainly possible, the ability to ask questions and to have them quickly answered by the text’s author (whoever that author might be) is certainly not.

Can you see why I love using Twitter and our blog comments as part of my literacy program? I’m not quite ready to throw out all my charts with poems, songs and chants just yet. They still have value. But it is hard to beat the benefits offered by digital text when doing shared reading.

14 thoughts on “Changing Face of Early Literacy – Why Digital?

  1. Thank you. I have enjoyed reading your posting. It is always interesting to see how other teachers are embedding 21stC learning experiences into their daily programmes. My class is a Y1/2 ( 6 and 7 year olds) and they are instantly more engaged when we are learning digitally.. We blog together at least twice per week to share our learning with families, the coomunity and globally. Keep up the good work. Cherryl Eden.

  2. Digital is the vernacular of this generation. I have watched my friends 4year old read his books on the computer. He much prefers his books to his movies. Why? Because I can read my books. I only get to watch my movies!

  3. Hello and thank you for this intriguing post. I teach 3rd grade (7/8year olds) in a middle class community. We are just now cracking into the 21st century teaching style and I am so hesitant to bring devices into my classroom. My class enjoys our time in our computer lab, but I am overly concerned with granting children access to the internet. Not to mention, the liability involved in hundred dollar devices falling out of an 8 year olds hand. How do you monitor device usage, engage parents (who should be overseeing anything done at home) and monitor the content that enters your twitter feed? I’m aware you likely filter tweets as they enter. Though I’m curious as to the buy in from the parents to support their child tweeting. Thank you.

    1. Hi Romina,
      We do spend time talking about good digital citizenship, or what is appropriate online. We also talk about safe usage of tablets. Do accidents happen. Yes, occasionally, but screens can be replaced. I monitor what enters our Twitter feed by being very careful who we follow. I believe we are currently following only nine accounts.
      I have never had anything but positive feedback from the parents in my class about their children tweeting. They know the safety measures I have in place (such as not matching names and photos and approving everything before it goes on line).

  4. Hello Mrs. Cassidy,
    I agree that including technology into everyday lessons is very beneficial to students. Since students are being required to have blog posts and twitter accounts, introducing them early will help them down the road in their education and working experience. One thing I’ve enjoyed discovering through my EDM class is the enjoyment younger students get from communicating over twitter or other posts. It’s interesting to see how they react and respond to what others have said. Incorporating technology into classes is a good way to keep students engaged, teach them tools they will need later, and let them meet others. When I start teaching, I can’t wait to see how my students respond to comments on their blog posts or other projects. Since being in EDM, I see the potential for teaching using tools like blogs.

  5. Hello Kathy,
    I think it is great that you are helping the children learn more about technology and the many different resources out there. I really like that you have your students talk to other classrooms. I think this is a great idea because they are very interested in what is going on with other children their age. My students each have an IPAD that they just got so we are in the first stages of using more technology in the classroom. I would love to try some of the activities that you have in place with my students and their IPADS. It will be teacher led i can see for awhile but then I see that your students were able to start typing and helping more. I am excited that I found your page and I can’t wait to learn more about how to use technology in the classroom. My students are going to be excited when I tell them all about what the great ideas that I have learned from you. I will definitely read more on how to get parents approval and support when it comes to technology. Thank you for posting all of the great ideas that you are doing in your classroom it will be of great help to me and my classroom.
    Charlene Loya

  6. Wow, I really liked the way you involved your class in a classroom twitter account. It seems so easy to forget that our future is going to be made up of the cyber world. I also have joined this digital reading world on my Kindle and tablet. The students must have absolutely loved to see their tweets when they commented. I can just imagine that my students would love to be picked everyday to read their tweet in front of the class. As it is, I have started using remind.com to send out mass class texts and reminders to parents. Every time the texts goes out, the students come back to school telling me they saw my text. They are very happy that “I” their teacher text their mom. LOL! I have to admit that when we take advantage of the digital tools out their, it does impact our teaching tremendously and makes a difference in the way the students learn. Thanks for giving me a new idea of how to involove early literacy in my classroom!
    Jennifer Saldana

  7. Wow! I think it’s amazing what you are doing with the kids. Not only is this adding tech literacy into the program (an increasingly necessary tool to have), but it is also teaching them virtual awareness and getting them to consider what is appropriate and inappropriate conduct online at an early age. There seems to be a push for teachers to introduce more nonfiction reading in their classroom, and you have done so in a way that really captures the children and involved them with hands-on reading and learning. I will certainly try to implement this in my classroom when I have the chance. Thanks for sharing!

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